Friday, December 14, 2012

More Mistletoe for Christmas

The other day, I wrote a post about mistletoe and its history.
As coincidence would have it, a few days later
I noticed a couple of small trees, not oaks, laden with balls of mistletoe.

The leaves are a dark black-green,
so they are difficult to see in the photos below
because the sky was dark and overcast: 

This next tree is completely inundated with mistletoe:

I have read accounts of people harvesting mistletoe 
by taking long poles and knocking the plant to the ground.
I suppose a ladder and a garden clippers would be more civilized,
but not necessarily more effective.
However, I have read that in order to retain its magic,
mistletoe should never touch the ground.

At Christmas, many people weave mistletoe into garlands or wreaths,
but more of them gather a few sprigs together into a bouquet
and hang the mistletoe upside down in a doorway or foyer
in hopes of stealing a kiss.

Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs
explains that Victorians hung a "kissing ring"
fashioned from two interlocking hoops wrapped in colorful ribbons 
with a sprig of mistletoe suspended in the middle.
That sounds much prettier than a dangling bouquet.

The Victorians may be able to lay claim to the kissing ring, but not the tradition.
Washington Irving, in his 1820 book
The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon
describes the mistletoe kissing tradition
 that was already antiquated by the time of his writing:

The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas,
and the young men have the privilege of kissing under it,
plucking each time a berry from the bush.
When the berries are all plucked, the privilege ceases.

Mistletoe--maybe it's one of the things that puts the "merry" in Christmas.

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